Reflection on the Perinatal Incarceration Learning Summit

by Emily Bullins, NARAL Pro-Choice NC NPIP Intern

On Thursday, May 31st, I attended the Perinatal Incarceration Summit alongside Lynne, Tara, Nicole, and Linda from NARAL Pro-Choice NC. The conference was hosted by a collection of advocacy groups including SisterSong, NARAL Pro-Choice NC, MomsRising, and several other groups fighting for reproductive justice for women who are and have been incarcerated. One of the main focuses of this summit was an anti-shackling campaign led by SisterSong. This conference consisted of several panels that covered action plans, best practices for advocacy, and featured a panel of formerly incarcerated women who shared their lived experiences of being pregnant in prison.

This conference was actually my first day as one of the NARAL Pro-Choice NC summer interns! I found it to be a very helpful reminder of how expansive reproductive justice work can be. To be completely honest, reproductive justice for people who are incarcerated was something I had not considered when thinking about what reproductive justice looks like. I was largely unaware of the neglect and abuse of many incarcerated people in regards to their reproductive health. SisterSong raised a particularly eye-opening issue to my attention through their anti-shackling campaign. Incarcerated people who are pregnant are shackled throughout their pregnancy and often times during labor as well. This can be an extraordinarily traumatizing process to give birth while shackled because it deprives pregnant people of any agency or bodily autonomy while giving birth. Those at the summit, including myself and our NARAL Pro-Choice NC team, seemed to all agree that shackling a pregnant person is dehumanizing and degrading.

I also want to bring attention to SisterSong’s anti-shackling efforts because I found it to be a great example of direct action within an abolitionist framework. As a Women’s and Gender Studies major at UNC, I have read many different works of feminist theory. For the most part, I found the pieces insightful but lacking direct action plans. I believe there must be a symbiotic relationship between theory and direction action, and that they cannot be separated from one another. SisterSong’s advocacy provided exactly such. While we were able to theorize alternatives to the penal system, rather than focus on reform, we were also able to discuss the immediate actions needed to advocate for those currently incarcerated.

May 31 2018 Perinatal Incarceration Learning Summit

Panelists from SpiritHouse, YWCA of Greensboro, and SisterSong (L-R) discuss reproductive justice and activist strategies.

The conference was incredibly informative and its speakers and attendees alike brought so much wisdom to the table. I was very satisfied by the insistence of panelists and our hosts to raise the voices of those with lived experiences. It was a powerful reminder to remember that in public service, the question to ask is “What do you need?” not “What do I think you need?”  Our speakers included several women who had been formerly incarcerated, and I was so grateful that they would share their stories.  I believe there is no greater evidence for injustice than lived experience. In my academic career, I have learned that science and facts, though widely accepted as hard truths, can be manipulated to explain certain phenomena or promote specific goals. This is why I find personal testimony to be such a vital part of understanding why reproductive justice advocacy is needed. The stories of these women cannot be denied and were clear proof that we need to continue to work towards dismantling oppressive systems and empowering people who are incarcerated to have access to the full rights to which they are entitled.

Additionally, I was able to learn about what language to use when discussing perinatal justice for incarcerated people. A label like inmate, offender, and prisoner disempower people to be self-advocates and to know and practice the rights to which they are entitled. Also, words like criminal pass a judgement onto these people when, most of the time, we are not fully aware of their circumstances. In our advocacy, it is important to serve people without judgement or bias. I was unaware that terms like “incarcerated person” or “person who is incarcerated” are preferred to inmate. Panelists also used language that illustrated how dehumanizing and unjust aspects of the penal system can be. For example, prison cells were referred to as cages. The intentional use of that language was a clear way to frame our conversation as one with the goal of abolition. For more information and discussion about the language used to describe incarcerated people, I recommend Inmate. Prisoner. Other. Discussed by Blair Hickman and Inmate. Parolee. Felon. Discuss by Bill Keller, both published by The Marshall Project.

We ended the conference in song led by SisterSong’s Executive Director, Monica Raye Simpson. This was a great way to conclude a day of powerful coalition building and to energize us for the next steps in our work. Overall, the conference expanded my understanding of reproductive justice and motivated me to continue as an advocate for equal and equitable access to reproductive health care for all.

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Asheville Rocked for Roe!

by Kelli Early, 2017-2018 Campus Leader at UNC Asheville

Roe v. Wade turned 45 this year, and with its anniversary brings celebration of its precedents that allow people greater bodily autonomy, but also the reality that Roe’s mission is under attack.

This is no surprise to North Carolinians.  Since Roe, North Carolina has been a testing ground for national anti-choice legislation.  While reproductive advocates successfully defeated a recent proposed federal 20-week abortion, sadly, the North Carolina General Assembly passed a 20-week ban in North Carolina in 1973, the same year that Roe v. Wade was decided.  These early attacks on abortion access in North Carolina were followed with abstinence-only-until-marriage education, which a recent government evaluation found has no effect on teen behavior.

And since the 1970s, organizations like NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina have defended North Carolinians’ abortion access in the courtroom, the streets, and in intimate spaces like clinics or classrooms where the impacts of these oppressions are felt.

Stigma and shame are prevalent social effects of criminalizing abortion and sexuality.  Rock for RoeThat’s why this anniversary of Roe v. Wade, NARAL Pro-Choice NC hosted the 2nd Annual Rock for Roe benefit show to dance, celebrate, and raise funds to continue our defense of reproductive rights.

The evening included a raffle of wonderful prizes, ranging from concert tickets at the Orange Peel to a YWCA membership, procured with the help of Development Director Toni Curry and Board Member Monroe Gilmour.  The audience was treated with live music by Big Sound Harbor, a local band in Asheville who became experts at raffling our prizes and fundraising another year of resistance!

Big Sound Harbor Rock for Roe Aville Jan 22 2018

Dulci, Big Sound Harbor lead singer, fabulously calling raffle prize winning tickets

While attendees walked between tables of prizes, NARAL Pro Choice NC’s Advocacy and Organizing Manager Lynne Walter offered people buttons, stickers, and literature as tools to spread knowledge about reproductive advocacy in North Carolina.  Participants were able to sign a petition against additional 20-week abortion bans and encouraged to take action after the event.

It is vital that community members on a local and state level come together to share stories, challenges, and kinship to sustain our movement for reproductive freedom, because, ultimately, we are fighting for each other’s lives.  Since 1 in 4 U.S. women will have an abortion in her lifetime, the work of NARAL Pro-Choice NC and all other reproductive justice organizations must continue so that North Carolina’s dark history of sexism, racism, and homophobia don’t become our future!

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Roe v. Wade Celebration Week at Davidson College!

by Kristen Sands, 2017-2018 Campus Leader at Davidson College

Hello from Davidson, North Carolina, Kristen Sands here!  To celebrate 45 years of Roe v. Wade, I worked with Planned Parenthood Generation Action campus representatives Caroline Roddey and Emma Granowsky as well as student leaders of the Health Justice Committee Jennie Goodell and Lily Acton, to develop a week of fabulous events sponsored by Shout Your Abortion!  We had the best time getting members of our community together to celebrate the 45th anniversary of abortion legality, learn more about reproductive justice, and come #TogetherForAbortion.

Tatianna runs the thank you card booth for students to send a note of thanks

Tatianna runs the booth for students to send a note to abortion providers and pro-choice advocates in honor of Roe v. Wade!

We kicked off the week with an educational lunch event covering the history of Roe v. Wade, its current place in this political atmosphere and why legality does not mean access.  We discussed barriers to reproductive healthcare that exist for Women of Color, queer and trans folk and other marginalized communities, discussed attacks on Roe, and talked to students about what they could do to support abortion access.

On Wednesday, we took over campus trivia night to ask our fellow students some questions on Roe v. Wade and abortion designed to bust some myths and raise awareness about North Carolina’s abortion laws.  For example, we asked “Does abortion put you at risk for… A) Breast Cancer, B) Chronic Depression, C) Infertility, or D) None of the above?” in order to educate the group that women who get abortions are no more likely to develop depression than women who carry a pregnancy to term, and there is no correlation between breast cancer or infertility and having had an abortion!

Bridget enjoying Shout Your Abortion swag at campus trivia night!

Bridget enjoying Shout Your Abortion swag at campus trivia night!

On Thursday, we were incredibly fortunate to have a number of powerful activists take the time to join us for a panel discussion on Reproductive Justice.  Our professionals in the field were Tara Romano, Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina, Calla Hales, Director of Administrative Services of A Preferred Women’s Health Center, and Ash Williams, North Carolina Organizer from SisterSong.  Tara, Calla, and Ash built an amazing discussion, helping us understand what Reproductive Justice means, how we can contribute to this work, and how we can center patients and providers in our conversations and activism related to reproductive freedom.

Crowd of students enjoying discussion led by panelists

Students enjoying a discussion led by Ash Williams of Sister Song, Tara Romano of NARAL Pro-Choice NC, and Calla Hales of A Preferred Women’s Health Choice.

 

Ash Williams, Tara Romano and Calla Hales crafting an impactful discussion on reproductive justice and opportunities for student activism.

Ash Williams, Sister Song, Tara Romano, NARAL Pro-Choice NC, and Calla Hales, A Preferred Women’s Health Choice.

On Friday, we had a booth open all day for students to write notes of thanks to all the hardworking people who make abortion access possible.  Students loved taking advantage of the opportunity to send a note of gratitude to abortion providers, activists, clinic escorts, and advocacy groups.

Our amazing thank-you notes designed by student Jennie and awesome swag from Shout Your Abortion

Our amazing thank you notes designed by student Jennie and awesome swag from Shout Your Abortion.

Lucy sends a note of thanks

Lucy sends a note of thanks.

The Roe v. Wade Celebration week at Davidson was a huge success and I feel so grateful to have had the opportunity to bring education, gratitude, and celebration in honor of the 45th anniversary onto my campus.  Our events were well attended by faculty and students alike, and we loved the opportunity to engage in discussions about Reproductive Justice and abortion access, to celebrate the progress that has been made, and to prepare to tackle the challenges that remain.  Thank you NARAL Pro-Choice NC and Shout Your Abortion for making this week possible!

Our amazing thank-you notes designed by student Jennie and awesome swag from Shout Your Abortion 2

Celebrating 45 years of Roe v. Wade!

Chalking for Roe: How Small Acts of Engagement Make a Difference

by Angelina Kianka and Esther Fiore, 2018 Campus Leaders at UNCW

In honor of the 45th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Esther and I chalked UNCW’s campus to promote awareness.  We wrote dozens of pro-choice messages in areas that see the highest foot traffic, such as in front of Randall Library and in the common areas by the Student Center.  Our messages included “Our Bodies, Our Choice,” “Celebrating 45 Years of Roe v. Wade,” and “Keep Your Laws Off My Body #45YearsOfRoe.”  We chalked on a Sunday evening to ensure that we would have minimal disruptions, and because the anniversary happened to fall on a Monday.

UNCW Roe chalking 2018 1

In my classes on Monday, I overheard students talking about the chalk messages and even walked by some students taking photos of the messages.  The chalking also garnered the attention of the Women’s Studies Resource Center.  I went to their office to pick up some NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina swag, and the women at the office expressed their appreciation for our pro-choice efforts.  Chalking is an eye-catching, inexpensive way to communicate an idea while facilitating the opportunity for dialogue.  There’s no denying that it got students and faculty chatting, and it was a great way to kick off the semester!

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Later in the week, Esther and I attended a #MeToo panel.  We distributed NARAL Pro-Choice NC materials and collected names of students interested in joining the Feminist Student Alliance.  I’m thrilled to see UNCW supporting efforts to discuss sexual harassment and assault, and the panel has inspired us to capitalize on the momentum of the #MeToo movement and plan some events surrounding sexual assault awareness.  The panel was even featured on a local news station—here’s a link of the segment!

January has taught us that a little can go a long way when it comes to activism.  Igniting awareness on the campus community is crucial.  We’ve got some ambitious ideas for the upcoming months, and we’re excited to see the impact we’ll have within our community.  Stay tuned!

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NARAL Pro-Choice NC Celebrates 45 Years of Roe v. Wade!

by Caitlin Oliver, NARAL Pro-Choice NC Bachelor Of Social Work intern

Barely one week after the 45th anniversary of the landmark Roe v. Wade U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion, Senate Republicans tried and failed, yet again, to pass a nationwide 20-week abortion ban.  This recent intensified attack on an individual’s bodily autonomy is yet another reminder of the importance of remembering what abortions were like before Roe v. Wade.

On January 23, 2018, NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina celebrated the 45th anniversary of Roe v. Wade at The Pinhook with a screening of videos of different abortion stories that featured various women who had abortions before and/or after Roe v. WadeThe PinhookAdditionally, there was a panel discussion with NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina’s Executive Director, Tara Romano, and its Advocacy and Organizing Manager, Lynne Walter.

The abortion stories, produced by Moyers & Company, served as needed reminders of past and present barriers to comprehensive reproductive health care.  For example, one woman spoke of having to leave her home state of Texas in order to receive abortion care because of recent TRAP laws that had closed many Texas clinics.  All of the women in the videos expressed fear that the U.S. will one day return to a time in which abortion is no longer safe and legal.

Since Roe v. Wade, there have been many local, state, and national efforts to restrict abortion.  The January 29th, 2018, vote on a 20-week ban is just one of the latest attempts.  Another example is the federal Hyde Amendment, which was first passed by Congress on September 30, 1976, and impedes access to reproductive health care by blocking insurance providers, like Medicaid, from covering abortions.  In North Carolina, the Hyde Amendment has been used to justify denying insurance coverage of abortion for many North Carolinians, including teachers, members of the military, veterans, Peace Corps volunteers, Native Americans that utilize the Indian Health Service, people who are incarcerated in federal prisons, North Carolinians who have their health insurance through the Affordable Care Act, and all federal, state, county, and city employees in North Carolina.

The Hyde Amendment disproportionately restricts access to abortion for people of lower income, people of color, young people, immigrants and those who are undocumented, and transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals.  Ultimately, this threat to comprehensive reproductive health care highlights the reality that economic justice, racial justice, immigrant rights, and LGBTQ+ equality are all key aspects of reproductive justice, as well as vital components of the overall health of the Durham community.

At the end of the event, participants were encouraged to take action against efforts to restrict abortion access in their local communities!Screen Shot 2018-02-05 at 2.47.39 PM